Lawmaker wants to limit discussion of systemic racism in Kentucky classrooms

Amid a national groundswell against critical race theory in schools, a Kentucky lawmaker has prefiled a bill to limit conversations around systemic racism in classrooms.

Bill Request 60, prefiled Tuesday by Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, would prohibit public K-12 schools from using curriculum or supplemental learning materials that would teach students that one race or sex is “inherently superior.”

Teachers could not use materials “promoting division between, or resentment of” different groups, including different socioeconomic classes and racial identities.

Schools would not be able to teach that an individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” due to their race or sex, the bill says.

Teachers would not be allowed to say the country is “fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.” They also would not be allowed to promote or advocate for a “violent overthrow of the United States government,” the bill adds.

Fischer’s bill request does not specifically ban critical race theory — an academic framework used to examine how systems and institutions may perpetuate racial disparities.

A press release shared Wednesday, though, mentions critical race theory throughout and says the bill aims to ban the concept from classrooms.

“Critical race theory is not based on facts or evidence but rather serves as a dangerous diversion from education priorities that are actually proven to eliminate disparities,” Fischer said in the release.

“It is a powerful tool for those who seek to divide us into categories and destroy the very institutions that have seen generations of Americans of all races and backgrounds build successful futures.”

Fischer said he filed the bill after Highlands High School, a predominantly white and wealthy school in his district, sought to add a course called “Social Equity” that would focus on a range of social justice issues.

Highlands’ school decision-making council approved the course in December, but ultimately said it would not offer it next year due to scheduling issues, its student newspaper reported.

A citizen would be able to file a complaint with the Attorney General if they think a teacher discusses any of the barred topics, the bill says. If the Attorney General finds a violation, and the violation continues, schools would lose $5,000 in state funding per day.

Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said the bill’s premise is “more than a little concerning.”

“I think once you start legislating what can and can’t be taught in schools, especially in the framework of politics, it gets really dangerous,” Beshear said, when asked about it during a Tuesday COVID-19 press conference.

The bill’s prefiling, which comes months ahead of the 2022 legislative session, comes during a national push by conservatives to restrict how teachers can discuss topics involving race in their classrooms.

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